CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ten ESPN anchors and producers spent three days here last week for the fourth annual “ESPN NASCAR Immersion” at – and around – Charlotte Motor Speedway in what is generally regarded as the “home” of NASCAR. The immersion, a cooperative effort between NASCAR and ESPN, is designed to help the on-air personalities and behind-the-scenes producers learn more about the intricacies of the sport through a hands-on experience.
Participating in the immersion were SportsCenter anchors Linda Cohn, Jade McCarthy, Kevin Negandhi and Bram Weinstein and First Take host Cari Champion. Joining them were SportsCenter senior coordinating producer Mark Summer, highlights producer Jeff McGuire, news editor Ken Fratus, ESPN International producer Ivania Lorenzo and Tim Scanlon, vice president, Talent. continue reading…
“Finally, I get to work with someone who is my equal when it comes to sweating when seeing the name Nikolai Khabibulin on a highlight sheet. I can’t wait to see the look in his eyes!” – Neil Everett, Kenny’s co-anchor
“During his ‘observation day’ I think Kenny found it was pretty much like riding a bike — once he attended a couple of show meetings and we showed him the rundown, it all came back pretty quickly. Even though it was really just an observation period, he jumped in right away and started pitching story ideas which was a hit with the show group. Kenny is a perfect fit for the LA show — we like to take a few risks, so I see Kenny fitting into this mix extremely well. He will undoubtedly add an interesting twist and delivery to the SportsCenter product. – Sandy Nunez, coordinating producer
Note:Kenny Mayne looks ahead to tonight’s 11 p.m. PT SportsCenter, which he anchors for the first time since 2008:
There’s some chance this is part of an ESPN step-down program because in addition to asking me to return to SportsCenter-LA part time, the bosses offered me an assistant starter position at the ESPN golf course.
That said, I’m thrilled to return to the show I grew up watching. Actually, I was 19 when the show started. But I hadn’t matured. Still haven’t. How mature can you be if your job is to watch sports for a living? The people in the LA office were very nice on my first day of orientation. One of them said hello.
Maybe it was like when a rookie hits a home run and the veteran players ignore him. I’m really feeling the love. Another LA employee showed me how to pay for a pop at the self-checkout pantry. I don’t think my credit card swipe worked, so the truth is I have stolen $1.50 worth of Coca-Cola from ESPN.
I hope I can find a way to repay ESPN for the beverage and for the opportunity to return to SportsCenter. I like soft drinks that much.
I asked the security guard at the front entrance if I need to sign up for a permanent pass to get in the building when I come down from Seattle to do the shows. He said he’d just let me in. I hope that guy is working Oct. 14th.
Editor’s note: I Follow is all about ESPN employees on Twitter: what they tweet, whom they follow and how you can interact socially with anyone and everyone.
Today, we focus on Jamie Little, pit reporter for ESPN’s NASCAR and IndyCar coverage and a reporter for the Winter X Games. Little will be on the job as ESPN televises the opening race of the NASCAR Nationwide Series season from Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 23, at noon ET.
When did you join Twitter and why?
I joined in Jan. 2010. I was actually kind of [against it]. I just thought it seemed too personal and just another avenue for people to over-share. But when I started hearing people refer to things drivers said via Twitter and respectable journalists on the NASCAR beat were breaking stories on it, I figured I should give it a shot. It didn’t take me long to get addicted! I quickly gave up Facebook as a result.
Who is your favorite person to follow on Twitter?
I love following Blake Shelton (@blakeshelton) and Brad Keselowski (@keselowski). Shelton is just hilarious while Keselowski is funny yet very informative and very active on Twitter. Both are quite entertaining.
Who is the most interesting person who follows you on Twitter?
I’d say Mario Andretti (@MarioAndretti) and Danica Patrick (@DanicaPatrick). But I have never looked at all of the people who follow me. I’m sure there are others who are interesting outside of racing.
If you could add any one person as a Twitter follower, who would it be?continue reading…
#Hashtag of the year for 2012:
#RoryMcIlroy. His emergence as really being the face and force of golf was a big story in 2012. His win at the PGA and the Ryder Cup at the end of the year and his new deal with Nike cemented his place as being the next “it” guy in the sport.
#Hashtag of the year for 2013:
#TigerWoods. At least for the first half of 2013, focus will be on whether Tiger can respond to Rory McIlroy becoming the new “it” guy. The questions that we as broadcasters of the sport are going to try to find out is will this elevate Tiger’s game and motivate him to make that last step in his comeback to start winning majors? I think it’s a critical year for Woods in that regard.
A big prediction for your property in 2013:
As we hone in on the majors — and that’s what we focus on in our golf coverage, our Big 3 that we do, the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship — are at probably three of the most historic and venerable sites. I’m probably most excited about the idea of returning to Merion (U.S. Open), where everyone who’s ever won there is a legend in the sport. I think the combination of that and Murfield (Open Championship), where you also have legends win, in my mind it will add up to the potential of a great year in the sport. It doesn’t seem like there are fluke winners at either Murfield or Merion and seems like greatness rises to the top at both of those venues. –By Andy Hall
Editor’s Note: With this multi-week series — the Front Row Forward/Rewind, 2013/2012 — ESPN’s Communications Department takes the pulse of content executives throughout ESPN for their views on what’s ahead across ESPN for 2013 and some of what transpired in 2012. The snapshots provide a look at where ESPN has been, where it’s going and how it plans on getting there.
Rich Feinberg, ESPN vice president, motorsports, production
Best off camera moment:
Brad Keselowski sat in our production truck for the Nationwide Series race at Richmond in September and it was both fun and interesting. He had been to Bristol a few weeks before that for a “Car Wash” and he was really interested to see what goes on behind the scenes. Toward the end of the race, we were involved in our replay sequencing after an on-track incident and he suggested to us on a particular angle if we started the replay earlier, he could help us understand how what ultimately happened was a result of what happened about three-quarters of a lap before that. We all walked out of the truck and said we should have him in there more often.
Favorite segment or interview:
The interviews after the incident between Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer in Phoenix. It really put a spotlight on what a lot of the drivers were feeling and how they thought they needed to take actions into their own hands. They were very real and transparent as both athletes and competitors on our air.
On Sunday, after Brad Keselowski won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup title, the 28-year-old appeared on SportsCenter for an interview with anchor Kevin Connors. The resulting four minute-plus interview (above) quickly became Internet gold as fans of Keselowski and his “Blue Deuce” raved about their beer-chugging driver and his revealing conversation with Connors.
Front Row asked Connors for his perspective on the live talkback.
What was your initial thought when you saw him with a huge glass of beer?
Where’s mine?! Then I thought, this is about as genuine as it gets. His reaction was so real, that’s why it received the response it did. Here’s a guy who just finished off a dream season, and he’s having a beer to celebrate. A very, very, very large beer.
You (and others) commented after that it was a great interview. What did you like so much about it?
The fact that it was so natural. Athletes love to thank their sponsors, their agents, their apparel company, etc. Brad was just sincere, saying he was buzzed (classic!), then admitting he wasn’t the biggest, strongest guy but that he and his team got there through honest, hard work. When I asked “What did your Dad say to you after you won?” and Brad said “We did it!” and laughed, I thought, that’s what it’s all about.
How was the reaction you received on Twitter and from co-workers, friends, family, etc?continue reading…
ESPN’s Shannon Spake will be will be embedded with Brad Keselowski’s race team leading up to Sunday’s Sprint Cup finale.
With Brad Keselowski trying to beat five-time champion Jimmie Johnson and win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup title in the sport’s season finale this weekend, ESPN’s news and information platforms will surround Sunday’s live telecast of the Ford EcoBoost 400 from Homestead-Miami Speedway with coverage throughout the week. (The telecast on ESPN begins with a 90-minute NASCAR Countdown at 1:30 p.m., followed by the race at 3 p.m.)
SportsCenter will air reports all week from NASCAR reporters Marty Smith and Shannon Spake, who will be embedded with the Johnson and Keselowski race teams.
Spake will file reports today from Penske Racing, Keselowski’s team, while Smith will spend Wednesday at Hendrick Motorsports as Johnson’s team tries to rebound from a disappointing Sunday in Phoenix.
Reports from both veteran reporters will also air on ESPN2’s daily NASCAR Now.
“I’ll be talking to both Brad and [crew chief] Paul Wolfe and some of the team guys about how they’re approaching the weekend and their mindset,” Spake said.
“Obviously they’re going up against a proven team, but Paul told me Sunday in Phoenix that his guys are really calm and they’re having so much fun, and this is why they all do this, to be part of a championship battle.
“So we want to just be able to follow their progress and their weekend and tell the stories of what’s going on at that shop and what they’re doing to prepare for the biggest moment in a lot of these guys’ careers and lives,” she said. continue reading…
Click HERE to listen or visit iTunes to download the podcast and be sure to SUBSCRIBE to the Front & Center podcast. Also, make sure to check out the all new ESPN Radio app, now available for the iPad.
Tonight’s SportsCenter Special: NASCAR Face to Face with Hannah Storm (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) is the fourth of its kind since January. The previous three — one focused on Tim Tebow, one with NFL stalwarts and the most recent with NBA stars — established the brand and delivered unique access to sport’s biggest names.
“This one,” says Storm, “might be the best one yet.”
Featuring NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart, the show, according to Storm, further establishes “a classic long-form interview format that has gone by the wayside in large measure throughout the years. Also, it really brings me back to my roots covering NASCAR during my first full-time television job as a sports reporter in Charlotte [N.C.].”
In the podcast above, Storm discusses the access to the athletes; her strategy for doing these type of interviews and her newfound joy of shooting paper rats. The gallery above includes photos from Storm’s Monday taping of the “open” and “close” for the show, shot by Front Row’s Hannah Worster at a Bristol, Conn. warehouse.
David Garibaldi created these compelling portraits of the NASCAR drivers, continuing the artist’s work with Storm on the Face To Face specials.
Be sure to catch Hannah Storm and SportsCenter anchor Kevin Negandhi as they host SC from Ramstein Air Base in Germany as part of ESPN’s Salute to Our Veterans programming.
Editor’s note:The actual Brad Keselowski ad is featured above. Outtakes are featured later in this post.
One of NASCAR’s fastest-rising stars, and one of its most social media-friendly, Brad Keselowski is featured in the newest installment of ESPN’s “Nothing Beats First Place” advertising campaign that debuts this week.
Launched in mid-July to promote ESPN’s telecasts of the final 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races of the season, the campaign includes commercials starring four drivers.
Spots with Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards already have aired, while a fourth with Denny Hamlin will begin running prior to the Sept. 16 start of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
This year’s campaign continues a theme that started when ESPN rolled out the first spots in 2011, with the drivers in humorous situations that demonstrate that nothing is better than winning (or worse than losing). The theme ties in to NASCAR’s renewed emphasis on winning races in determining the seeding for the Chase, a rule change that took effect last year.
In the new spot, Keselowski fights to stay awake after a gigantic turkey feast, gets (fake) pepper-sprayed while trying to decipher an autostereogram image and answers odd questions at a news conference, all of which he’d rather do than lose on the racetrack. continue reading…